China Connection: U.S. Policy and the People's Republic of China

Wednesday, October 1, 1986

Since the early 1970s, the United States has pursued its relationship with the People's Republic of China with considerable determination. The United States clearly expected appreciable security, economic, and political gains to result from the relationship. Sufficient time has now elapsed to allow some preliminary assessments of just how much the United States has benefited from its ongoing "China connection." It seems obvious that some groups of Americans have profited from expanding U.S.-P.R.C ties. Businessmen have been animated by the promise of access to "the world's largest single market"; academics have become involved in exchange programs; farmers have sought outlets for their surpluses; and military men have entered into sustained contact with their counterparts in the world's largest military establishment. For all that, no overall cost accounting of the complex U.S.-P.R.C relationship has been undertaken in terms of the general interests of the United States and the industrialized democracies. For many, it would appear that the United States has no principled and consistent China policy.

To arrive at a responsible assessment of evolving U.S. policy, Gregor briefly reviews the history of China, the "new China" of Mao Zedong and its foreign policy, and prevailing U.S. and Chinese strategies for dealing with the Soviet Union. The costs that attend U.S. policies with respect to post-Maoist China are considered and some suggestions concerning future policies are offered. An effort is made to determine the real benefits—strategic, economic, and political—that the United States can resonably expect from its connection with Beijing. The U.S.-P.R.C relationship is considered in the context of changing East and Northeast Asian developments and the interests of the littoral and insular noncommunist states of the region. It is in that context that the relationship with the People's Republic of China may well prove to be of secondary importance to the West Pacific policy of the United States. Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of China on Taiwan, and the ASEAN states may constitute more valuable security assets and economic markets, and more compatible political allies, than post-Maoist China. Gregor's arguments and the conclusions provide a well-reasoned perspective on important and ongoing issues in U.S. foreign policy.

Copyright 1986.